No more politickingThe main opposition Democratic Party has elected a new leader. Chung Sye-kyun, who was at the helm of the DP for the last two years, bowed down to the former governor of Gyeonggi, Sohn Hak-kyu. Despite Chung’s role in the opposition party’s stunning triumph in the June elections, party convention voters opted for new leadership. Sohn has returned to center stage after several years in the shadows. He must now assert his leadership potential by reinventing the opposition party, which is suffering from an identity crisis and poor approval ratings.
Sohn stressed during his campaign that “change should be the party’s source of strength and the path to ruling power. We must win back the lost 6 million votes through change.”
He pitched himself as a formidable candidate to run in the next presidential election. Sohn, a lawmaker with political roots in Gyeonggi, an area which closely resembles the capital, is confident that he can win broader support from across the country than those candidates from Jeolla.
The 2012 presidential race was the centerpiece of the party’s convention. But the party must remember that the choice of who becomes the next president, and the ruling party, lies with the people. The DP may return to power if the ruling Grand National Party slips out of public favor and the people choose a replacement in December 2012. But with two years still left until the elections, the party should focus first on proving itself competent in the role of being the main opposition. The public threw its ballots in favor of the GNP in the last presidential and general elections. But fearful of the creation of a mammoth ruling party, the public desired the DP to serve as a reliable watchdog over the ruling party.
But their track record over the last two years is disappointing. Instead of presenting practical alternatives and reasonable critiques, the party presented only knee-jerk opposition to whatever the government pursued. For instance, the party members stood at the forefront in the protest rally against U.S. beef imports while leaders blocked the National Assembly.
They also turned the legislation into a war of ideology and staged a violent clash with their ruling counterparts.
The main opposition of a country that is technically still at war should back the government on the security front. Yet the DP opposed the National Assembly’s adoption of a resolution condemning North Korea for its attack on the Cheonan, and it remains silent on the farcical third-generation hereditary rule in the North.
Sohn said he will serve as a stick to judge the Lee Myung-bak administration. But before he attacks the government, he must look inward. The path to ruling power should start from a change within.